Category: Baptism (Page 1 of 7)

Sermon Sidebar

We’re in the middle of a sermon series at GCR looking at the Church sacraments of baptism, the communion meal, and the Sunday worship assembly. Two of the lessons just concluded were about the Lord’s Supper, specifically the “why” of the Church’s meal. As with all three of these ancient church rituals, if we can get a good handle on the ‘why,’ it will help us a lot with the ‘how.’ For the rest of this week, I’ll be posting portions of those sermons in this space. Due to time constraints–some of you will be surprised that I’m paying attention to time at all–some of what I wanted to say on Sunday wound up on the cutting room floor. This blog allows me/us to go a little deeper and wider in a little longer form. I’ll start by posting this sermon sidebar.

This was ready to go in the middle of Sunday’s sermon. I even had a PowerPoint slide that simply said “Sidebar: Something to Think About.” It’s an aside to remind us that we should be very careful about making hard and fast rules and laws around the Lord’s Supper, especially because the way we have observed it for centuries now in no way resembles the original meal. In my mind, these are all important and much-needed cautions. But it got cut for time. So here it is.

I believe lots of people know that the Lord’s Supper started out in the Bible and in the early Church as a full meal. We know it. But we just file it away as something ancient and unrelated. We don’t think about it. But the fact that how we observe the Lord’s Supper today hardly resembles at all the form or function of the Lord’s Supper in the early Church does have ramifications for us. It is something to think about.

Some people want to draw hard black-and-white lines and boundaries around who can serve the Lord’s Supper and who can’t. We’ve inherited some of those rules here. This turns the community meal into some kind of litmus test on spiritual leadership or church authority when Jesus made overly clear at all of his meals, particularly the last supper in the upper room, that the meals are totally about serving one another. Our Lord went out of his way to denounce position and chains of command and authority, especially around his table. But to justify our cultural traditions, we’ve determined that our sisters in Christ can pass a tray of cups horizontally while seated, but not vertically while standing. On that rare occasion when a woman does stand up with a plate of crackers, it had better be to serve someone on her row–she can’t cross an aisle! It’s just good for us to remember that we wouldn’t have any of these issues if the Lord’s Supper were still a meal. Something to think about.

Some people want to put up walls around the table and decide who can eat and who can’t. Only the baptized can participate. Little kids who are not baptized cannot. Look, Jesus ate his suppersĀ  with some of the worst people in town–in the Gospels, that’s the religious leaders. Jesus’ table is open to everybody, his invitation to the feast is for all. Our Lord refused to discriminate with his suppers–he ate with everybody–it’s one of the things that got him killed. And I don’t think it’s a good idea for the church to draw lines of restriction where Jesus never did. As for our little kids, if you’re looking to the Bible, the Lord’s Supper is the main meal of the day. It would be like not letting your child eat dinner on Sunday. In the Bible, it’s very clear that at the Passover meals and the covenant meals, the little kids are right there. The children are actually main players in the liturgy, they’re at the table and participating and eating with the community. The Bible paints it as a God-ordained teaching opportunity, one of the places and ways we pass on the faith. Something to think about.

Some people have very strong feelings about what kind of bread is served at the Lord’s Supper. Unleavened bread is certainly what Jesus and his apostles ate at that last supper, but the first Church did not use unleavened bread. God’s Church used common, leavened, fluffy, table bread for the Lord’s Supper for the first 700-800 years. The Roman churches in the West introduced unleavened bread into church services during the 7th and 8th centuries to shift the focus of the meal away from resurrection celebration and toward silent reflection on Jesus’ suffering and death. Unleavened bread was part of the move toward turning the table into an altar, a re-sacrifice of Jesus every Sunday. It was one of the things that led to the split between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches in 1054. Unleavened bread at the Lord’s Supper is not a two thousand year old thing. It’s more like a one thousand year old thing. And only for us in the West. Something to think about.

Lastly, some of us want to make hard rules about the form of baptism and won’t accept as legitimate anything other than full immersion. But we accept much less than a full meal at the Lord’s Supper every week.
But the Greek word is baptizmo. It literally means to be immersed under water.
Yeah, the Greek word is diapnon. It literally means supper, the main meal of the day.
Well, the bite of cracker and the tiny cup represent the supper; it’s a symbol.
Yeah, the people who sprinkle and pour claim it represents the immersion.
Until we’re eating pot roast, mashed potatoes, and fried okra at the Lord’s Supper, I’m not judging the amount of water somebody uses or doesn’t use in baptism. Something to think about.

You don’t have to agree with me on any of this. You don’t have to agree with the person sitting next to you for us to have unity. I’m just saying that if you’re going to draw lines and make hard rules about these sacraments, there’s a lot to think about. Carefully.



Thinking Out Loud: Baptism

Two Sundays ago was “Baptism Sunday” here at GCR. Six beautiful people confessed Christ Jesus as Lord and were buried with him in the waters of baptism and raised to walk in newness of eternal life with God and with his Church. It was a glorious day. It was a testimony to our Savior and a glory to our God. Six baptisms.

And the preacher didn’t preside over any of them.

Six different people baptized these six new Christians. What was taking place was described to the church in six different ways. Six different things were said as the converts went under and came back up. Most of these people hadn’t baptized anyone before, so there was minor floundering and forgotten phrases and awkward hand-to-nose coordination.

And it was beautiful.

You know, it wasn’t that long ago–maybe just 20-25 years ago–that the preacher would have handled all six of those baptisms. The preacher did almost all the baptisms all the time; it was that way for decades, even centuries. And, not surprisingly, the baptisms were all very much the same. The same preacher said the same correct words and confidently used the same motions and expertly put the person under and brought the person back up in the same way. Every time. And I wonder if that didn’t help perpetuate the ideas among us that baptism is foremost something we do. A decision we make, a command we obey, an act of faith or a good work that we initiate and execute with precision. It’s a little too tidy, it’s a little too controlled. We’re in charge of baptisms and the preacher does it right. He’s the minister, he’s the “authority,” he’s the one who does it right.

No. God is the One who acts at baptism. This is God’s work, not yours. Not ours. God is the one doing the calling and the saving, the forgiving and the restoring. We don’t do anything in baptism, we don’t achieve or accomplish anything. We receive everything! It’s got nothing to do with my goodness or your correctness or the right words being said by the right person or the right amount of water being used or how much or how little I know about what’s going on. This is God meeting you in the water and making you an eternal child of his forever. Anything that adds to or takes away from that is legalism and denies the very Gospel of Jesus.

And I think our baptisms today communicate all that a little better than they used to.

It’s a teenager and his youth minister, it’s a couple of co-workers, it’s a child and her two parents demonstrating their faith by jumping into the water together and trusting that God is going to save. Giving themselves to the Lord, fumbling through the words, getting each other too wet or not wet enough, almost drowning each other, forgetting what to say–believing that God is the one in charge.

Just thinking out loud here. This seems like a really healthy development.


So, the Cowboys have their running back for the upcoming season. Ezekiel Elliott. For real. In Elliott’s last year with Dallas, he ran for 3.8 yards per carry, the worst of his career at that point. Last season with New England, he ran for 3.5 yards per carry. Jerry Wayne told us last week that he saw something in the last part of last season that gave him confidence Elliott could still be an effective runner. Well, in his last six games with the Patriots, his average per carry was 2.9 yards. This is what it looks like for Jerry to be “all in.”

It’s more like, “The window is closed, again, and I’m not spending any more money on this mess. Good luck to Dak and Lamb, go do the best you can. Mike McCarthy, go ahead and line up some interviews because when this season is over I’m firing you and bringing in Belichick.”



Baptism Sunday at GCR

You are not baptized by yourself. Baptism is not a private deal. When you’re baptized into the name of Jesus Christ, you are baptized into his community. You become a part of God’s redeemed people. Baptism is not just unity with Christ, it is also very much unity in Christ.

“You are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” ~ Galatians 3:26-28

That’s why we do baptisms on Sundays when the whole church is together. That’s why we cram as many people as we can up on the stage and we all stand as close as we can to the water, so you know this is not just about me and God. This is not just about me and my close relatives or me and my best friends. I am being joined by God into this community. God through Christ is now making me a part of this worldwide, universal, eternal community of the saved in Christ.






I love the way our Spiritual Formation Minister Jim Tuttle says it when he baptizes someone. As soon as he brings them out of the water, he grabs them and says, “I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is now you are an eternal child of God. The bad news is (gesturing toward the whole church) this is your family!”

This past Sunday was our first ever Baptism Sunday at GCR. I had never done one of these before. I have thought about it and wanted to do it for years, but haven’t been able to pull it off. We gave our church two weeks to think about baptism. To pray about it. To talk to others about it. To listen to God about it. If you have never been baptized or if someone you know has never been baptized, we’re going to spend these two weeks preparing for it and then we’re going to baptize a bunch of people on the 21st.

And, by God’s grace, we did.

Six brand new Christians put on our crucified and risen Lord Jesus in baptism on Sunday. We knew about four of them last week, we learned about one of them Saturday afternoon, and one guy didn’t decide to be baptized until after the second one had happened. Coy was standingĀ  on the stage with the rest of us and leaned toward J.E. and said, “Will you baptize me?” Melinda baptized Jayce, one of her co-workers she’s been bringing to church. Matt and Stacey baptized their teenage daughter, Kylie. Lan and Cassie baptized their adopted son, M.J. Philip and Caitlin baptized their two daughters, Madison and Mabel. We were laughing and crying and praising God together as a united community of faith around the waters of baptism. And each time a new Christian came up out of that water, we charged them and blessed them in unison with the opening lines from Colossians 3:

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, you also will appear with him in glory!”

It was a glorious day. Those of us who’ve been baptized for a long time remembered our own baptisms with thanksgiving and renewed our commitments to Christ and to one another all over again. And we thanked God for the privilege of participating in these six baptisms together as a church family. We ate and drank the communion meal together and prayed over these new disciples, still literally wet behind the ears, dripping with God’s forgiveness and grace, and filled to overflowing with his Holy Spirit.

May our God bless these brand new Christians with his love and grace. May they look back often on their baptism at GCR and remember what God has created in them. And may they walk with him, together with us, faithful to the end.



Baptism Language

The Churches of Christ use strong language when we talk about baptism. Sometimes we’re accused of being over-the-top. I wonder how they might criticize Martin Luther, who wrote these words in the middle of the 16th century:

“Your baptism is nothing less than grace clutching you by the throat, a grace-full throttling by which your sin is submerged in order that ye may remain under grace. Come, thus, to thy baptism! Give thyself up to be drowned in baptism and killed by the mercy of thy dear God, saying, ‘Drown me and throttle me, dear Lord, for henceforth I will gladly die to sin with thy Son!'”

Lots of Christians believe baptism is just an outward sign of a salvation that’s already been received. Other Christians believe baptism is a necessary command that legally divides people into two groups: those going to heaven and those going to hell. Of course, we know baptism is more than just a sign or a symbol. But we also know it should never be reduced to some line-in-the-sand technical requirement. It’s so much more. It’s a gift from God.

Baptism is not a legal requirement to meet, it’s not a technical ritual to perform, it’s not a test to pass or fail, or a strict command that has to be perfectly obeyed exactly right. It’s a gracious gift from God. Baptism is the way to accept and experience everything God longs to give us.

This Sunday is Baptism Sunday at GCR Church. I’ve never done one of these before. In Churches of Christ, we have typically emphasized the urgency of receiving forgiveness in baptism and rushed to the church building at all hours of the day or night to get a convert in the water immediately upon a statement of belief. Planning a particular Sunday to initiate new disciples is a little out of our comfort zone.

But the careful planning is what I like about it the most. As a church, we have spent the past couple of weeks focusing on baptism. Praying about it. Singing about it. Studying it. We’re praying for our friends and relatives who have never been baptized. We’re studying and praying with people who are about to be baptized. We’re counting the cost as a congregation and highlighting the beautiful sacrament as a divine gift to be received from our God.

If you or someone you know has never been baptized, this Sunday at GCR might be the perfect day to participate in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins and the gift of God’s Holy Spirit. If you live anywhere in West Texas, we’re inviting you to join us at GCR this Sunday and be baptized into Christ. You can click here to review what we believe about baptism, to contact me or another of our ministers or shepherds about baptism, and to see how to prepare for your baptism. If you know somebody in West Texas who’s never been baptized, send them the link. Pray for them. Tell me about them.

As of today, four people have signed up to be baptized into Christ at GCR this Sunday. The invitation is open to you, too.



Deciding to Die

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” ~Galatians 2:20

We all want to be raised with Christ. We want to claim God’s will for our lives that we be raised with our Lord to walk in newness of life. We want to experience the divine promise that we will be raised with Christ and seated with him in the heavenly realms.

But, first, you have to die.

The apostle Paul goes beyond saying Jesus was crucified in his place. Paul says he’s been crucified with Christ. He died with Jesus.

Of course, resurrection life and power is available to you. It’s available to you right now. But you have to die first. You can’t be raised until you first die – that’s just common sense.

Look at our Lord. Jesus did not resurrect himself. The Father raised him. What part did Jesus play in his raising? He died. He submitted to the will of God and he died.

Resurrection life and resurrection power is what God does in you when you decide to die to yourself and die to the world and die to your sins; when you die with Christ, when you’re buried with Christ, when you die, then God resurrects. It’s your call.

And it’s not really about your feelings. It’s about your will. It’s about what you decide to do.

When a guy gets married, the preacher doesn’t ask him to take out the ring and then talk about how he feels. Before you take this woman, tell us how you feel. “Man, I feel like I’m about to throw up. My hands are shaking, my knees are weak, and I’m sweating like a cow. I feel terrible.”

No, we don’t ask that. The question is: Will you take this woman? “Will I? Yes. I will do this. I will make the decision now to take this woman and commit to her as my wife.”

It’s a choice. It’s a decision of the will.

If you’ve never been baptized…

…will you? Will you die with Christ this Sunday in the waters of baptism in order to share in the resurrection?

I don’t care if you’re twelve-years-old or in your 30s or 50s. I don’t care if you were born and raised in the Church and, for whatever reason, you’ve never been baptized. I don’t care if you’ve never been inside a church building before.

Will you be buried with Jesus and be raised to walk in the life and power of his resurrection? Will you make the choice? Will you decide to die with Christ?



Your Life is Changed

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” ~Colossians 3:1-4

Paul is still talking about baptism here and being identified with Christ. You died, he says, and your life is now in Christ. Christ is your life, he writes. He says a similar thing to the Christians in Galatia: I have been crucified with Christ and I don’t live anymore; Christ lives in me. He tells the Philippians, “To live is Christ!”

When you are raised in Christ, your old life dies and your new life in Christ — Christ in you, the hope of glory — comes alive. You begin to realize all the gracious blessings you’ve received in Jesus, all the merciful gifts outlined in the first two chapters of Colossians, and you begin to think more like Jesus. You begin to see people and things like Jesus does. You realize more of what God has done and is doing through Jesus, you understand the bigger picture of the inevitable realities, and it shows in your changed life.

When someone hits you, you don’t fight back, you turn the other cheek. When someone sins against you, you don’t seek revenge, you forgive unconditionally. When an evil person does you harm, you don’t retaliate, you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Not so these bad people can turn nice and leave you alone. That rarely ever works! No, Jesus says you turn the other cheek, you forgive without limits, you walk the extra mile, give up your coat, and love your enemies because that’s the way God is.

When you are raised with Christ and filled with the fullness of God, your life is changed. It’s not new rules to follow or new commands to obey, it’s a changed life. The Bible always emphasizes what a Christian is, not what a Christian is supposed to do. But that changed life will show up in the ways you think and behave. What comes up in the bucket is usually what’s down in the well.

“This is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life.” ~1 John 5:11-12

Maybe you don’t feel this new life. You might not be so sure about the reality of God’s transforming power in your life. I get it. What you believe in your head and what you feel in your heart are sometimes two very different things. It’s like a football player who suffered a terrible ankle injury but has undergone successful surgery. He’s still favoring the repaired ankle and it’s hindering his performance on the field. He still limps because he remembers the terrible pain. He’s not 100% sure his ankle is totally recovered.

Maybe you’re walking through life with that same kind of limp. You might not believe God can really change your life. There’s too much history. Too many bad things. Too much pain.

You died. And your life is now secured, it’s safe, with God. Christ is your life. Give yourself totally to him, completely to him, and allow the transforming power of Jesus to reveal the reality that your life is changed.



« Older posts